Prompted by recent federal legislation, the National Park Service (NPS), in collaboration with the National Council for Public History, has launched a major effort to revitalize its presentation of the World War II home front story. The NPS selected me as Principal Investigator for this four year project. There are three major components of this project. 1. )Update the NPS World War II home front theme study written in 2000. 2.) Produce home front histories for all 50 states and 5 territories. 3.) Conduct a reconnaissance of properties on the current NHL property list and produce one or more National Historic Landmark nominations for World War II home front sites from this list or from newly recognized sites.
This research will be of vital importance to the NPS as they continue their effort to provide the over 275 million annual visitors to NPS sites with a history of the U.S. that reflects the diversity of individual experience and the complexity of our national saga. To put it bluntly, this is a truly remarkable opportunity for students to have their research impact what millions of people learn about U.S. history.
SPUR students will work with Dr. Basso and a team of graduate students on the state and territory home front histories. We will teach any SPUR student selected for our project how to conduct primary and secondary source research in digital archives following best practices in the humanities. SPUR students will read and analyze federal and state documents and historical sources that speak to the culture and society of the WWII era. The selected student will also learn about public history and working for the National Park Service.
SPUR students will work with Dr. Basso and a team of graduate students on the state and territory home front histories. We will teach any SPUR student selected for our project how to conduct primary and secondary source research in digital archives following best practices in the humanities model. They will have near constant access to a faculty and grad student mentor, but will also be trained to work independently. SPUR students will read and analyze federal and state documents and historical sources that speak to the culture and society of the WWII era. These will include newspaper articles, oral histories, and propaganda posters. They will also research secondary sources that cover the topics under investigation. World War II subjects of particular research focus include the environment, gender and race relations, the role of the government, the wartime economy, home front popular culture, and the experience of diverse communities including Mexican Americans, Latin@s, Chinese Americans, Filipin@ Americans, Black Americans and the LGB community both in the civilian and military sphere.
Student Learning Outcomes and Benefits
Students will learn to find and analyze primary and secondary sources. They will work with faculty and grad student mentors to create a database of information about each state's home front experience. They will learn how to take large amounts of historical data and turn it into a compelling story backed by a variety of different evidence. The benefits of these skills are profound. They are the cornerstone of liberal arts training that corporate leaders around the country have said is precisely the sort of training they want new employees to receive. Likewise, these skills will be of enormous use to those that continue on to graduate and professional schools or into the government or non-profit sectors.
- Bachelor of Arts, VASSAR COLLEGE
- Master of Arts, UNIVERSITY OF MONTANA
- Doctor of Philosophy, UNIVERSITY OF MINNESOTA
I am jointly appointed in History and Gender Studies at the University of Utah. My research interests include the theory and history of masculinity, labor and working class history, the history of old age, the history of race and ethnicity, the relationship of the military to society, U.S. Western history, the history of Pacific settler societies, and transnational history. I also offer courses that grapple with all of these subjects. My scholarship appears in both traditional venues, like books and articles, and in community-focused projects, like the construction of digital archives, the development of oral history projects, and the production of K-12 curriculum materials.
I am the author of Meet Joe Copper: Masculinity and Race on Montana’s World War II Home Front (University of Chicago Press, May 2013), winner of the Philip Taft Labor History Book Award and the American Historical Association's Pacific Coast Branch Book Award. Meet Joe Copper describes the formation of a powerful, white, working-class masculine ideology among immigrant copper workers in Montana in the decades prior to World War II, and shows how it thrived during the war—on the job, in the community, and through union politics. The experience and actions of these men on the home front offers a crucial counter-narrative to the national story of Rosie the Riveter and GI Joe that dominates scholarly and popular discussions of World War II. Meet Joe Copper provides a context for our ideas of postwar masculinity and whiteness and finally returns the men of the home front to our reckoning of the Greatest Generation and the New Deal era.
I am also the editor of Men at Work: Rediscovering Depression-Era Stories from the Federal Writers’ Project (University of Utah Press, 2012); the co-author of a K-12 textbook entitled We Shall Remain: A Native History of Utah and America (American West Center, 2009); and the co-editor of Across the Great Divide: Cultures of Manhood in the American West (Routledge, 2001). We Shall Remain is part of a larger initiative, the Utah Indian Curriculum Project (UICP), which also includes the Utah American Indian Digital Archive, a 50,000 page digital archive. (UICP is available at www.utahindians.org.) UICP won the Western History Association’s Autry Public History Prize, the American Association of State and Local History’s Award of Merit, and National Council on Public History’s Project of the Year – Honorable Mention. Between 2006 and 2012 I also directed the University of Utah’s American West Center. At the Center, I initiated and oversaw not only UICP, but also six oral history projects, a number of federal, state, and tribal research projects, film festivals, lectures, conferences, and symposia. During my years at the Center I secured over one million dollars in grants and contracts and funded and trained over fifty graduate students in public history methodologies.
I am currently working on a book on Settler Masculinity in the Pacific World and beginning a new project on the historical experience of old age in America that has both a significant public history and scholarly component.